Alfalfa Seeds Bring Hope to Maeriste



Every year, Heifer Romania assists new communities in need and starts projects in new locations. In the beginning of 2009, it was the case of Maeriste and five other surrounding villages. As the nearby coal mines are closed, the local economy is now based only on agriculture with a strong emphasis on livestock breeding. The lack of jobs and opportunities is pushing the young generation to migrate to urban areas or abroad.
Many families from the targeted area, including young couples, are ready to stay and improve their nutrition and income through dairy cow breeding. But the livestock they have access to are a crossbreed, their production is low and for a larger area, the cow reproduction is not bringing any improvement. To solve this situation, Heifer Romania will deliver 51 Romanian Spotted pure breed dairy cows and 5200 high quality artificial insemination (AI) straws.
An important step forward was made on February 19, when we met project beneficiaries and local decision makers. It was an opportunity for the Heifer Romania
team to present the history, the values and cornerstones of our organization. We were pleased to see the villagers showing a strong interest in the project; more than forty people joined the event. It is well known that in small villages everyone knows everyone; they help each other and work as a united group. Talking about the original placements of the animals, the group showed great responsibility and respect. They decided the poorest of them should become the very first beneficiaries of the heifers. The original placement will take place in March 2009 during a village ceremony.
Without forgetting the traditional agriculture and good practices they have learned from their forefathers, Heifer Romania is providing methods and new techniques about caring for their animals during specialized trainings. Livestock nutrition is from far the most important topic. Without appropriate fodder, even the best cow is not productive.
The villagers know that alfalfa is the most appropriate fodder that covers the basic needs of the dairy cow, but they don’t have access to certified alfalfa seeds. Bearing this in mind, the Heifer Romania Team distributed 255 kilograms of high quality alfalfa seeds, 15 kilograms per family, at the end of the training meeting. Seeing and taking in their hands the alfalfa seeds, they were amazed and grew confident in the development of the project.


Gheorghe Tout, admiring the alfalfa seeds

Farmers will plant the seeds just after the snow is gone, keeping in mind the technical advices on cultivating and harvesting this very special plant. They strongly believe that it is going to be a beautiful crop. The alfalfa that is going to be sowed this spring will last for five years in a row and will be cut down for up to four times per season.
Well suited for the region, the alfalfa will resist the dry summer due to the long and deep roots. While other plants are wasting the soil’s nutrients, the alfalfa enriches it with nitrogen so the following cultures will do well. We advise villagers to mow the alfalfa when still in blossom because in this stage, protein content is high and the steams are easily digested. In the summer, all family members will be out in the fields: men mowing, women as well as children and elders, gathering the fresh alfalfa hay. The farmers will also feed other livestock like poultry and pigs with the fresh and tasty alfalfa, as it is rich in vitamins, calcium and other minerals. Sharing information about the alfalfa’s proprieties, we found out that not far from Maeriste, there are some places where alfalfa pie is considered a high cuisine dish.

This particular plant is useful for humans and animals. At the same time, it is being used as a remedy in Chinese traditional medicine as an appetizer and digestive solution.
The community will rely on the alfalfa crop as an important part of the animal’s fodder. Being rich in protein, alfalfa replaces and saves the maize that will be used for human consumption as corn bread.
It is difficult for the community of Maeriste to envision a better future, as it often feels overwhelmed by the political and economical changes. Project participants have the chance to pass over these times of crisis due to the generous support of Heifer International. As Gheorghe Totut stated, “Seeds always bring the hope of a new harvest.”

Laura Manciu
PR &Communications
Heifer Romania

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